“Are we getting any closer?” Melly asked.
The floating bubble whale named Dog nodded. Their newest companion was eager to lead them.
“Yes!” Dog happily answered, wagging his tail up and down. The magical water sphere rippled.
“Thank the gods,” Melly responded.
Clemiticus was at the helm, steering with the graceful elegance that only a floundering fish could match.
“Clemiticus has earned fifty sailing experience!” Fairy announced.
“Clemiticus has gained the Ability: Sailing Learner Permit Rank Two!” Fairy announced.
“Heck, yeah!” Clemiticus cheered.
To the skipper’s side perched Skittles. The parrot's eyes were like daggers pointing dangerously at Clemiticus' new floaty pet. The bird had said nothing since meeting the newcomer.
It must be jealousy. Melly thought. She couldn’t quite understand why either of them was so attached to the man. She guessed they liked his whimsical and optimistic personality. Melly shrugged to herself.
Nuecus was still below deck preparing something he called ‘a top-secret project’. Whatever that meant, Melly knew it was probably going to get them into trouble. The thaumaturge had taken Rupert with him, saying that he needed more hands for his ‘research’.
“I see a flag! A Pirate flag!” Derrick called out. He was leaning on the bowsprit, holding his monocular up to his right eye. “A ship. There’s a ship!”
Clemiticus grinned. “Finally! Now how do we slow this thing down?”
“Clem.” Melly looked disappointed.
“You are the worst pirate I’ve ever seen,” she said flatly.
“Thanks.” Clem smiled. “Jack would be so proud,” he then called out to his crew. “Put on the breaks or something! Slow this beast down!”
The ship mates rolled their eyes and got to work, moving to different parts of the ship. They pulled on ropes, and the sails rolled up into position. As the ship slowed to a crawl, they prepared to unwind the anchor.
“And what if they are hostile?” Melly added.
“Then we go PEW PEW and we get EXP.” Clemiticus responded cheerfully. “C’mon Mel. You’ve been through this before.”
“Yeah. Yeah,” she said, defeated. “I’ll fetch my potato.”
The entire crew was watching the approaching ship with anticipation. To their surprise, when the vessel neared, they realised it was a lot smaller than they expected. It wasn’t even a ship.
The small sailboat cruised towards them, proudly waving a pirate flag. It rounded the magical ship and slowed down beside them.
“Not much of a threat,” Clemiticus remarked.
At the helm of the sailboat stood a short pirate. He moved to one side and threw an anchor overboard and gave them all a hearty wave.
“Ahoy tharrr!” the pirate called out. He was dressed in a very generic red and black stripped pirate getup. The clothes looked cheap and oddly clean. “Ye’ be trader or ye’ be fightaarr?”
Clemiticus ambled closer and gestured towards his elaborate swashbuckling outfit. “Yarr. I be a pirate.”
The stranger looked at Clemiticus embarrassed. He cleared his throat and sighed. “Sir. I can see that. I am asking if you are a trader or if you are here for a fight?”
Melly did a double take at the so-called pirate’s complete transformation in demeanour.
“No, we aren’t here for a fight.” Melly said, eyeing the trigger-happy swashbuckler.
“Ok good.” The pirate looked pleased. “May I introduce myself? The names Kouskous, and I’m an employee of the Pirate Bay.”
“Great to meet ya.” Clemiticus replied.
“Employee?” Melly asked softly.
Clemiticus quickly introduced Kouskous to his ship’s crew members. “Actually, we are travellers. We only wish to get past this bay. We are on a quest that will take us to a land beyond.”
Kouskous laughed “Yahaharrr,” he had gone back into his pirate mode. “Well, about that there. Many 'ave travelled but none 'ave returned!”
“What do you mean?” asked Melly.
“The way be blocked ye see. Yarrr. A magical cloud o' death 'angs o'er the sea.” Kouskous spoke with a sigh. A look of sadness overwhelming him. “There’s an evil in the air that we gentlemen o' fortune cannot cross.”
“Shit.” Melly swore. “Does that mean we have to travel all the way south and around?”
The pirate gasped. “Ye have a death wish? Tharr be barnacle covered sea wrestling spawn of a she-devil!”
“Um. What?” Clemiticus and Melly said together.
“Oh sorry,” he cleared his throat. “There are sea monsters in the Southern Ocean. It’s extremely dangerous.” He corrected in perfect English.
“Ah,” Clemiticus nodded. “So, what do we do then?”
Kouskous paused for a moment then scanned the deck of the ship. Clemiticuses’ rag tag bundle of crazy adventures piqued his interest.
“Maybe.” He murmured. “Come, stay a while and have a chat with the Pirate King.”
Clemiticus’ ears perked up.
“The pirate king might know a way. Yarr.” Kouskous added.
Clem looked at each of his party members one after another. None looked like they had a better idea.
“Ok take me to your leader,” Clem replied. “And, um. Arrr!”
It was time to meet the Pirate King.
After another hour of sailing, Melly finally caught her first glimpse of the Pirate Bay. Dozens of ships dotted the crystal-clear water. Each vessel proudly displayed their skull and bones insignia. The shore was covered in dazzling white sand and sparse palm trees. Behind the beach lay rows of buildings that sat under the shadow of a cliff topped with grass.
“Clemiticuses’ party has entered the zone, Pirate Bay!” Fairys voice announced.
“Talk about a paradise hide away,” Derrick commented.
Melly nodded. The place was stunning.
“There!” Dog called out. “They have a long dock thingy on the other side.”
Skittles gave the whale a death stare.
Clemiticus spun the wheel and the magical ship turned towards the pirate harbour. Luckily for the crew, the ship's hull shrank as it moved, allowing them to dock in shallow waters. They wouldn’t need to row smaller boats to the shore.
With the anchor down and the boat fastened, the party took their first steps on dry ground in days.
After adjusting, they found the pirate Kouskous from before. He had docked his sailboat ahead of them and was now patiently waiting by the shoreline.
“Yarrr. Ready fer the tour?” He asked.
“Lead on good sir,” Clemiticus said as he skipped to follow Kouskous.
Melly became more impressed the further she walked. Following their new guide, they found the pirates had turned the ocean side hideaway into a thriving township. It came complete with cobblestone roads and well-developed housing; they had a bakery, butchery, barbershop and even a beachside bar. The place was also surprisingly clean.
Melly laughed as they even passed a public laundromat.
“This place is the bees’ knees!” Clemiticus commented. His head whirled as he walked. Skittles had to pull the gawking swashbuckler's coat from left to right to stop him from ploughing into street signs. Dog floated obediently behind, mimicking Clem’s gawping.
“Where do you get all the materials for building this place?” Asked Derrick.
The pirate smiled. “North of ‘ere there’s a bunch of magical islands. Every time we turn up to chop down trees, they magically grow back. All the plants and animals keep reappearing. So, we have been harvesting them repeatedly.”
Clemiticus laughed. “Now that’s how you use game mechanics.”
“Kouskous. Which way are we heading?” asked Melly.
Kouskous pointed towards the end of the street where a white multi-storied house stood. Its front was decorated flawlessly, complete with a spotless lawn, marble mermaid sculpture and hedges cut to perfection.
“Someone’s got excellent taste,” Clemiticus remarked while observing the polished double doors of the mansion. Above was a gigantic golden plated symbol of a crown.
Kouskous walked ahead of the party and knocked on the door three times.
Clemiticuses’ party stood quietly waiting. A few awkward moments later, footsteps echoed from within, and a dishevelled head poked out from behind the door. Eyes flashed under a floppy pirate hat and the door slammed closed.
“Um. What was that?” Melly asked confused.
“She was wearing a dressing gown,” commented Clemiticus.
“What’s a dressing gown?” asked Derrick.
“Ah hem.” Kouskous interrupted. “I think it best if we make our way to the back of the house. There’s a Beer Garden out back. Our King will be ready momentarily.”